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Democrats in Madison making rest of state pay


May 28, 2009

Did you enjoy your Memorial Day weekend? Did you take some time out to spend it with family, remember what so many have died for, and maybe have a picnic?

While most of you were enjoying the three-day holiday weekend, our state Legislature was busy. Hereís a good rule of thumb: When government is not in session, weíre all better off. And if the legislators are in session over a holiday instead of stumping for votes in their home districts, then they are really up to no good.

Two weeks ago, the Democrats learned that the stateís budget deficit was much worse than anyone thought. The budget had an additional $1.6 billion added to the structural deficit for a $6.6 billion total, and Wisconsin has the worst structural budget deficit per capita in the nation.

They took another look at the numbers, let things sit a bit, had some closed-door meetings, and then started the budget process with an announcement from the governor that he is not going to raise taxes.

"My priorities in addressing this historic budget deficit are clear. First, I am not proposing any new taxes," Governor Jim Doyle said. "Second, we must make deep cuts to state government spending. Third, we must preserve our essential services such as education and public safety."

That was Friday, before the holiday weekend. By Tuesday, it was clear that nothing the governor said had any relation to the truth.

The joint finance committee, dominated by the Democrats (like everything in Madison right now), met on Friday and Saturday while many of you were planning trips up north.

Despite the deficit, they decided to actually increase state spending. They voted to offer state health and pension benefits to domestic partners of state employees. They gave children of illegal aliens a break on tuition at state universities. They agreed to spend $8.2 million on a new program to fund the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery and $2 million on the Wisconsin Genomics Initiative.

Then the Democrats decided to start sticking it to the taxpayer. They voted to double the tax on garbage dumping for municipalities. Look for that to be added to your property tax bill. The Democrats voted to add $5 to gun buyer background check fees.

These are minor compared to the expected $165 million increase in the hospital tax (new just this year), the increase in the income tax, the combined reporting of business taxes, the tax on Internet purchases and the increased tax on cell phones.

Give the governor and the Democrats in the Legislature credit. There is almost nothing under the sun that is going untaxed.

As for the goal of preserving "essential services" like "public safety," you donít think they really meant it, do you? First the Democrats cut the funding for additional district attorneys. Thatís okay, because the governor and the Legislature plan on opening the jails anyway. The joint finance committee will probably vote today to reduce the sentence of some arsonists, repeat drunken driver felons, cocaine dealers, kidnappers and sex offenders to reduce the stateís spending on prisons.

Coming to a neighborhood near you: the latest beneficiaries of the Democratic Party. Maybe they can be at your next Memorial Day picnic.

Meanwhile, the Democrats continue to keep items in the budget that have no business being there, but would not survive as separate bills.

The most odious of these is a mandate on pharmacies requiring them to have on duty a pharmacist who will dispense contraceptives. Clearly this is an attempt by the Legislature to force their will upon the consciences of pharmacists who, for personal religious or moral reasons, object to dispensing contraceptives.

For three months the public debated the governorís original budget proposal. Now the Democrats are trying to cram through a new state budget in 11 days, making the choices behind closed doors. The state budget is turning into a train wreck of bad social policy, increased spending, increased taxes, new taxes, and a neglect of the public safety.

For all of the complaints about how a state Legislature divided between the Republicans and the Democrats turned the last budget debate into a 10-month marathon, the public was better served.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)


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